First Amendment of the Constitution of India
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The First Amendment of the Constitution of India, enacted in 1951, made several changes to the Fundamental Rights provisions of the constitution. It provided against abuse of freedom of speech and expression, validation of zamindari abolition laws, and clarified that the right to equality does not bar the enactment of laws which provide "special consideration" for weaker sections of society.
The formal title of the amendment is the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. It was moved by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on 10 May 1951 and enacted by Parliament on 18 June 1951.
This Amendment set the precedent of amending the Constitution to overcome judicial judgements impeding fulfilment of the government's perceived responsibilities to particular policies and programmes. The amendment's language giving it retrospective as well as prospective effect was used by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, to render constitutional, actions that had been both illegal and unconstitutional.
Freedom of speech
In 1950, a leftist weekly journal in English, Cross Roads published by Romesh Thapar was banned by the Madras State for publishing critical views on Nehruvian policy, who petitioned the Supreme Court, which led to the landmark judgment in "Romesh Thappar vs The State Of Madras" on 26 May 1950. Eventually, in 1951 Nehru administration made the Amendment to 19(1)(a) of Constitution of India against "abuse of freedom of speech and expression".
Some courts had held the citizen's right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India to be so comprehensive as not to render a person culpable even if he advocates murder and other crimes of violence. The Parliament of India noted that in other countries with written constitutions, freedom of speech and of the press is not regarded as debarring the State from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom.
Freedom of trade
The right of citizens of India to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business conferred by article 19(1)(g) is subject to reasonable restrictions which the laws of the State may impose "in the interests of general public". While the words cited are comprehensive enough to cover any scheme of nationalisation, it was thought desirable to place the matter beyond doubt by a clarificatory addition to article 19(6).
Upholding land reforms
The Parliament of India noted that validity of agrarian reform measures passed by the State Legislatures had, in spite of the provisions of clauses (4) and (6) of article 31, formed the subject-matter of dilatory litigation, as a result of which the implementation of these important measures, affecting large numbers of people, had been held up. Accordingly, a new article 31A was introduced with retrospective effect to uphold such measures. Further, another new article 31B was introduced to validate 13 enactments relating to zamindari abolition.
It is laid down in Article 46 as a Directive Principle of State Policy that the State should promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice. In order that any special provision that the State may make for the educational, economic or social advancement of any backward class of citizens may not be challenged on the ground of being discriminatory, article 15(3) was suitably amplified.
Jawaharlal Nehru encouraged the Parliament of India to pass the amendment in response to State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, which went before the Madras High Court and then the Supreme Court of India. In that case, a Brahmin woman in Madras challenged the state's Communal General Order, which established caste quotas in government-supported medical and engineering schools, on the grounds that it denied her equality under the law; both courts had upheld her petition. Aside from Nehru, B. R. Ambedkar also spoke in support of the proposed amendment, while Syama Prasad Mookerjee spoke in opposition to it.
Certain amendments in respect of articles dealing with the convening and proroguing of the sessions of Parliament were also incorporated in the Act. So also a few minor amendments in respect of articles 341, 342, 372, and 376.
- Full text of First Amendment
- Austin, Granville (1999). Working a Democratic Constitution. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-19-565610-5.
- "Romesh Thappar vs The State Of Madras on 26 May, 1950". indiankanoon.org. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- "Half a century of ideas". Indian Express. Oct 25, 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- Hasan, Zoya; Sridharan, Eswaran; Sudarshan, R. (2005), India's living constitution: ideas, practices, controversies, Anthem South Asian studies, Anthem Press, p. 321, ISBN 978-1-84331-137-9
- Khanna, Hans Raj (2008), Making of India's Constitution (2nd ed.), Eastern Book Company, p. 224, ISBN 978-81-7012-108-4